EveningIt’s late afternoon on a Tuesday, a gray, murky, fiercely windy day, shortly before sunset. The aforementioned wind is howling, scouring the deep cold from the valley. I’m listening to a choral concert for Epiphany on BBC3. It’s been a day of cancellations, mostly due to illness of one sort or another; it seems to be that time of year.

Epiphany was last Saturday, and marks the arrival of the wise men and prefigures the exodus of the Holy Family to Egypt. There are reversals and misrule aplenty in this day. For one, three kings or wise men arrive at a manger and give gifts of great value to the newborn and his family, folk of low stature. Then, not long after the wise men dream that they should quietly return home, telling no one of the miraculous events they have witnessed, and wisely do so. The baby’s small family packs up and wisely heads for Egypt, a former place of slavery.

I found myself in several conversations today in which there was a shared desire for the return of wisdom and compassion to civil society and politics in the U.S.. There was spoken a desire to have politicians and neighbors sit together, across political and cultural divides, and seek ways forward. There was a desire to address the many pressing issues that have splintered us as a country, and to do so with compassion, integrity, wit, and generosity. This wish for something sane and humane seemed to cross political, cultural, and racial lines.

In the therapy hour the struggle to find a collective path appears as reflection on the ways civility and cooperation break down in psyche, with diverse aspects of self in profound and lasting conflict, resulting in ill feelings that make the work of being human very difficult. Or it comes up in remembrance of oppressive, controlling, greedy, Narcissistic parents, teachers, or bosses who, in an attempt to impose their vision of the good on others, squeezed the joy and creativity from the lives they touched.

Such memories are inevitably traumatic, yet they may point towards the possibility of profound healing. Most often, in order for healing to take place, parts of self, and diverse groups in the community, must see their agendas as less important than the collective health of the many. It is not a matter of giving up one’s true needs; rather, it is a process of acknowledging and addressing everyone’s true needs. Those who refuse to relinquish their insistence on getting their way, who bully or demean others, may be exiled.

At the moment a return to real conversation and shared, truly inclusive, vision seems far off. Yet, who knows what may arise from a fierce desire and a willingness to truly speak together?



14 thoughts on “Epiphany

  1. Such crucial insights about the need to bridge differences to find common ground. It reminds me of something I wrote a few days to describe the book manuscript I wrote and will be returning to soon to finish editing.

    “This is Agnes’ story, a woman of mixed Ojibwe and European ancestry who set out in 2001 to discover why Native American children continued to be removed from their families and communities at disproportionate rates despite a 1978 US law to prevent further cultural genocide. After relocating to a reservation border town to conduct a study, Agnes found that there are no simple answers. The issues she observed are described through the diverse perspectives of many Ojibwe and Euro-Americans who shared their stories with her. What she did uncover, however, was a path to solutions that sounds simple. Asking questions and listening respectfully to people’s responses across different cultures encouraged people to think critically about their taken-for-granted assumptions. They were often interested in learning more about other cultural views, opening up possibilities for inclusive dialogue and understanding. Yet people on both sides of a cultural divide were hesitant to initiate contact even though the geographic distance between the reservation and Euro-American border town was minimal.”

    Of course, I’ve significantly changed the description since then, but your post reminded me of the many times I have witnessed people’s fear of being the first to reach across differences, and the amazing results when someone did take the initiative. You are absolutely correct. We need to dialogue and find common ground.

    1. Lovely piece, Carol. If we are to survive, and to have some quality of life, we humans must learn to listen to one anothers’ experiences. Of course, that listen can seem threatening. I shudder to think about what not listening will bring.

  2. Unfortunately it is not the collective health and well, as seem to be important in these times, Michael. I see more egoism and narcissism run the world and the most important places around. People need to recognize the need of treating each other with respect and that all of us have same right to be here, no matter we are humans, animals og plants. There are space for us all, but greed drives this race madly.

    1. Yes, Irene. As greed and malice become the everyday here in the U.S., voices that speak to sanity become more difficult to hear. The din grows! Yes, greed seems to be driving policy, or the lack of policy. I am always shocked that politicians and others cannot, of will not, take responsibility for the suffering they cause, or for the long term harm.

      1. Yes, and sadly, as you say, it is widespread. I try to remember that this has been true for much of our collective history, and changes only slowly. There will be change.

  3. The mirroring is absolutely an important element. If we can meet it inwardly, we can find a right relationship outwardly. You have, imho, touched a core. Thank you so much for your writing.

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